Aaron Nola struck out a career-high 13 batters and Joe Broussard registered his eighth save of the season as LSU defeated Arkansas 5-3 in the opening game of their Southeastern Conference series Friday night at The Box.
HOW THEY SCORED
LSU first inning - Sean McMullen walked. Mark Laird reached on a fielder's choice when shortstop Michael Bernal's throw to second was too late to get McMullen. When Bernal's throw was wild, both McMullen and Laird moved up a base. McMullen and Laird scored on a single by Alex Bregman. LSU 2, ARKANSAS 0
LSU third inning - Kramer Robertson was hit by a pitch. McMullen hit a home run over the rightfield fence. LSU 4, ARKANSAS 0
Arkansas fifth inning - Eric Fisher hit a leadoff homer over the rightfield fence. LSU 4, ARKANSAS 1
LSU seventh inning - Andrew Stevenson singled and went to third on a single by Christian Ibarra, who was thrown out rounding first base. After Tyler Moore was intentionally walked, Stevenson scored on a sacrifice fly to the centerfielder by Robertson. LSU 5, ARKANSAS 1
Arkansas eighth inning - Tyler Spoon drew a leadoff walk. After Andrew Benintendi flied out to the rightfielder Laird, Joe Serrano walked. Spoon and Serrano scored on a double by Brian Anderson.
LSU WASTED SCORING OPPORTUNITIES
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
McMullen played a role in two of the three innings in which LSU scored. He drew a leadoff walk in the first and eventually scored on a single by Bregman. McMullen hit a two-run homer in the third to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. The home run was the fourth of the year for McMullen. He is tied with Kade Scivicque for the team lead in homers.
Nola was dominant through the first four innings. Arkansas had two base-runners in that time - Anderson on a second-inning walk and Serrano on a fourth-inning double. Nola registered nine of his 13 strikeouts in the first four innings. Nola lost his shutout in the fifth when Fisher hit his third home run of the year. The Hogs stranded a runner at second base in both the fourth and sixth innings. Krisson Wilkerson struck out to end the fourth, while Anderson fanned for the final out in the sixth. A bad base-running play helped Nola get out of a big jam in the seventh. With a runner at first and one out, Bobby Wernes singled. Jake Wise followed with a single. Third base coach Tony Vitello waved Clark Eagan, who reached on an error by Bregman at shortstop. Vitello then tried to stop Eagan. Ibarra cut off the throw from the leftfielder McMullen and flipped to Bregman, who tagged out Eagan as he tried to get back to third base. Nola was removed from the game after issuing a four-pitch walk to Tyler Spoon to start the eighth. Nola, who picked up his seventh win of the year, gave up two runs and four hits and walked two. He finished with 115 pitches. For the fifth time in nine starts, Nola didn't allow a hit in the first inning. Opposing hitters are 9-for-88 against Nola in the first three innings of his starts this year.
Zac Person had a rough time in the set-up role. Entering with a runner on base and no one out in the eighth, Person got Benintendi to fly out to Laird in deep rightfield. But, Person was unable to get the next two batters out. He walked Serrano and yielded a two-run double by Anderson. Broussard was called upon to get a five-out save. He walked the first batter, but then retired five hitters in a row. With the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth, Broussard retired Fisher on a short fly ball to Laird and Wernes on a ground ball to first baseman Connor Hale. Broussard took the throw from Hale to record the out. Broussard struck out two batters in the ninth.
After not starting in last weekend's series against Mississippi State, Robertson was back in the lineup at second base. Hale was the first baseman. For the second straight week, Moore caught Nola. Scivicque was the designated hitter. . .Bregman had one hit - a two-run single in the first. . .The Tigers scored in the three innings in which they had a runner in scoring position. LSU stranded one runner - Bregman at second base in the third. The Tigers were 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position. . .LSU hit into three double plays. . .Bregman and Laird were thrown out attempting to steal third base. . .Ibarra and Moore were thrown out on the bases in the seventh inning. Ibarra was tagged out after rounding first base too much on his single. Moore was doubled off first base on Robertson's fly ball to the centerfielder Spoon, who made a diving catch. . .Arkansas pitcher Trey Killian threw a complete game. He allowed five runs, four earned, and five hits with four walks and three strikeouts in eight innings. . .There were ten players - five for each team - who had one hit. No one had more than one hit in the game. . .LSU, which has won six games in a row, is 26-8-1 overall and 7-5-1 in the SEC. The Tigers are in fourth place - one-half game behind Alabama, Ole Miss and South Carolina - in the overall conference standings. . .Arkansas is 21-14 overall, 6-7 in the SEC. The Razorbacks are one of six teams tied for seventh place in the overall league standings. . .The paid attendance was 10,892. The actual crowd was 7,034.
FROM THE CLUBHOUSE
"Every SEC game is not over until the 27th out is recorded. This game was typical. This game looked easy. We get a 2-0 lead in the first and another two runs. Nola was striking out everyone. The one thing about all those strikeouts is that you throw a lot of pitches. I starting figuring how many innings Nola could go in the fourth or fifth. I felt he could give us seven innings. I made a mistake letting him stay in there in the eighth. What a performance by Joe Broussard. It was unfortunate we had to use him so much. You do not want to use your closer for more than one inning on Friday night, but it was vital to win the game. I think he'll be ready (Saturday)."
"We could have done more offensively, but we didn't and that kept them in the game. I knew runs were going to be hard to get. Arkansas gave up three runs to South Carolina in three games last week. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we scored more runs than they did."
"I did a good job keeping the ball down. I made some mistakes late in the game when I left the ball up. My arm felt good tonight. Everything was working good, especially my two-strike pitches. Once a hitter sees you two or three times, he has a little bit better selection of pitches. Late in the game is when you have to make your best pitches."
"Coming up in the first inning with runners in scoring position, I was looking to hit something early in the count. I fouled off a high fast ball and I fouled off a cutter away. I felt like they were trying to elevate again. They threw me a couple of back-to-back sliders. I stayed through it on the second one."
"My first walk was an aggressive walk. I was not going to give up a hit there. I then went right after the next hitter. After I got those two outs in the eighth, I came out settled in for the ninth. I still stick to the same plan if I have more than a three-out save."
LSU will play host to Arkansas in the second game of their series at The Box on Saturday at noon. Jared Poche (6-2) will be the starting pitcher for the Tigers. The LSU-Arkansas game will be broadcast on ESPN2.